Durban - Durban’s Metro Police Dog Unit is plagued by shortages of dog food, dog shampoo and a large proportion of the K9 force has not been inoculated because of outstanding vet bills.
So dire is the situation that police officers have taken to buying essential items for their dogs out of pure frustration.
The unit has before been mired in controversy when a logistics officer, in charge of supply chain management and procurement, ordered that police dogs that were old or sick should be put down instead of being allowed to see out their days with their handlers.
Three sources within the Metro Police spoke to News24 on condition of anonymity, for fear that they might face reprisals for bringing their plight to the media.
“The problems at the dog unit are long-standing and members are at the point where they are struggling to deal with their frustrations.
'Why should it come to this'
"The issue of the shampoo may seem innocuous, but this is something that is vital in looking after our dogs and we have not had any supplied by the Metro Police in over a year.
"The guys have got their own shampoo, but why should it come to this? We never had to do it before and we love our dogs so it will get done, but it is highly unfair,” he said.
“Some of the younger dogs are eating food that is meant for adult dogs because they refuse to order puppy food. They are meant to be fed the right dog food so that they develop properly and see out their tenure as working dogs, but the system is broken at the Metro Police.”
The sources said what was of most concern was that veterinary bills had been outstanding for longer than six months.
“This means the vets refuse to provide a service and treat the dogs so they in turn cannot work. I don’t know how it is possible for a metro the size of eThekwini to become classified as bad payers and let bills go like this for so long,” another source added.
Outrage from dog handlers
In 2013, mystery surrounded a standing order from eThekwini Metro Police which ordered that specialised police dogs which were injured or too old to work should be put down.
The order, which had originally emanated from Metro Police logistics head Innocent Chamane, was then put on hold by the council after an eruption of outrage from dog handlers and animal rights activists.
Chamane had argued that police dogs should be viewed as “an asset” and, as such, ought to be destroyed when they are no longer able to work, like office furniture.
eThekwini communications head Tozi Mthethwa said the matters were being addressed.
“Management is addressing all matters relating to Metro Police dogs as they are an important part of the Metro Police family and all effort is being made to ensure their care is of an acceptable standard,” she said.